Category Archives: African cinema

Charles Etubiebi’s one man performance of Africa Ukoh’s play 54 Silhouettes at the United Solo Festival in New York, 20 November 2019

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This Wednesday, November 20, 2019, Charles Etubiebi will perform a one man show adaptation of Africa Ukoh’s play 54 Silhouettes at the United Solo Theatre Festival in New York. (You can buy tickets here).  54 Silhouettes is the first Nigerian play to feature at the the world’s largest solo theatre festival, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year.

The satirical 54 Silhouettes explores with both hilarity and gut-punching conviction the double bind of an actor, Victor Chimezie, who hopes to break through to a major role in Hollywood but finds himself cast in yet another poorly written stereotypical film about Africa. The play is a sly critique of Hollywood but also a self-reflexive examination of African performers who enable such representations.

To attend the event, here are the basics:

Date: November 20.
Time: 7:30pm.
Location: 410 West 42nd street, New York, NY 10036.

I reviewed the premiere stage performance of 54 Silhouettes in 2013 for the Daily Trust.

 

Original 54 Silhouettes poster 2013

Courtesy of Africa Ukoh (photographs by Victor Audu)

The play was originally produced for radio on BBC after coming first runner up in the 2011 BBC African Performance competition, and being awarded a Stratford East/30 Nigeria House grant.  I didn’t know anything about the play before I showed up at the Alliance Francaise in Jos where I had seen it advertised in November 2013, but I was blown away by it. I had seen very little Nigerian theatre set in the contemporary moment, and this was fresh and urgent and original. In particular in my review, I highlighted the performance of Charles Etubiebi who played the part of the British-born actor Kayode Adetoba.

Sparks also fly between Chimezie and Kayode Adetoba (brilliantly played by Charles Etubiebi), the Brighton-born British-Nigerian actor whom everyone calls Tobi. He speaks with a South London accent, mispronounces Chimezie’s name just as Larry and Flynn do, and when he plays a warlord speaks with what internet critics call a “generic African accent.”

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Kayode Adetoba (Charles Etubiebi) and Victor Chimezie (Promise Ebichi) during the Jos premiere, 16 November 2013. (c) Carmen McCain

It seems appropriate, therefore, that Charles Etubiebi, whose performance I so admired in the original stage play,  is the actor to play all five parts in the solo adaptation, and who often refers to the importance of accent in interviews about the play, as does the playwright Africa Ukoh, whom I recently interviewed for Brittle Paper. Etubiebi explains to Noah Tsika in this fantastic interview for Africa is a Country how after being invited to the NEAP Fest theatre festival in Brazil, he asked Ukoh to adapt the play into a one man show, which he then performed in Rio de Janeiro and at several different festivals in Lagos. Here are two videos from his performances in Lagos where, Etubiebi talks about  the background to the play.

 

And on BBC pidgin:

 

Having previewed the Lagos show on YouTube, I think it is the tightest and best version of the play that I’ve encountered. It is a really an outstanding performance that speaks to the creative synergy between Charles Etubiebi, as a performer, and Africa Ukoh, as a writer and director.

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LADIES AND GENTLEMEN ITS HERE!!!! On stage this Saturday and Sunday in Lagos, in the one-man adaptation of Africa Ukoh's 54 SILHOUETTES, Charles Etubiebi is: Victor Chimezie! Sonny Chuks! Larry Singer! Howard Flynn! and Kayode Adetoba! What happens when your ambitions clash with your ideals? What path will you take? When a struggling Nigerian actor in Hollywood gets his shot at fame and fortune it seems his life's work is finally paying off, but then he discovers this dream job is exactly what he swore to never do: one of those "war in Africa" films. Come have a great night out at the theatre! Date: 18 and 19 May, 2019. Venue: Freedom Park, Broad Street, Lagos Island. Time: 7pm. Tickets: N3000.

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In the interview with Noah Tsika, Etubiebi describes his working relationship with Ukoh:

We got accepted to the Lagos Theatre Festival, which is run by the British Council. We performed [54 Silhouettes] there, and this time Africa came to Lagos and directed it himself. And this is when I most enjoyed the performance, because when you work with someone who actually created the thing … Working with Africa, we have a special dynamic. We ate the play, we talked the play, and when we did it in Lagos, at the festival, I genuinely enjoyed being this character, and telling this story. It was absolutely amazing.

As an actor, I know that I’m supposed to cry on demand, but I don’t do that easily. But the last rehearsal we had [in Lagos] … there’s a scene where the main actor gives this monologue about how we as Africans have to confront stereotypes of Africans—what people see from far off. They say, “Let’s just put them in a box and leave them there.” No, we’re more than that. We’re like every other person. Before you can get to know us—who we really are—you have to really look. Don’t just chalk us up as “black Africans”—first of all, in Nigeria, we have many languages. Let’s just start there, first of all. So we’re a lot more than you see. Africa’s a big continent. Those lines [in 54 Silhouettes], about how we need to educate and reeducate the world about who we really are—at the last rehearsal, I got emotional. And Africa said, “You’re ready.”

Since Etubiebi began to perform the one-man version of the play, the play has also been picked up for other dramatic readings, presented by Etubiebi’s Theatre Emissary partner Taiwo Afolabi at the Puente Theatre for the Spark Festival in Victoria, British Columbia and an African Voices event at the Roundhouse Theatre in London. London-based reviewer Nick Awde writes that 54 Silhouettes offers an “incisive slice of Nigeria while simultaneously channeling David Mamet.”

The United Solo Festival will be the first opportunity for American audiences to see this striking performance put together by two of the most exciting members of a creative cohort of artists that are revolutionizing Nigerian cinema and theatre. Africa Ukoh and Charles Etubiebi both have prestigious film credentials—Ukoh having written two critically acclaimed films making rounds on the recent film festival circuit, Abba Makama’s films Green White Green (available on Netflix) and The Lost Okoroshi, and Etubiebi having acted in films like Steve Gukas’s compelling 93 Days (available on Netflix and on Amazon Prime) and Kemi Adetiba’s King of Boys (also on Netflix). But this feels like an exciting moment for Nigerian theatre as well, where Nigeria’s film industry invigorates and gives new life to Nigeria’s theatre tradition. 54 Silhouettes comments on Hollywood portrayals of Africa, but also reaches back and alludes to the dilemma of Wole Soyinka’s tragic hero Elesin in Death and the King’s Horseman. As I wrote in my review of the stage performance,

In Soyinka’s play, a patronizing colonial district officer Pilkings denounces as savage the tradition of ritual suicide by the oba’s companion after an oba’s death, but in “saving” Elesin he contributes to the death of Elesin’s son Olunde, who takes his father’s place. Chimezie and Larry recite dialogue from the scene where Elesin tells Pilkings, “You have shattered the peace of the world forever. There is no sleep in the world tonight.”

This symbolic tribute to Soyinka’s play resonates throughout 54 Silhouettes: Chimezie, like Elesin, faces great temptation to betray his people for a good life, and the well-meaning Larry, like Pilkings, is so blinded by his prejudices that he undermines (through his writing) the cultures he tries to represent.

Yet, in Chimezie’s turn away from the Hollywood stereotypes of Africa and, perhaps, a turn towards Nigeria’s new wave of theatre and cinema(?), is this the birth of the the unborn left at the end of Soyinka’s play?

If you are in New York, by all means go to the United Solo performance on Wednesday, 20 November, (tickets available here). Charles Etubiebi is already in New York for his performance in a few days.

If you are in Nigeria, hopefully there will be other performances soon, but, in the meantime, you may want to check out the published version of Africa Ukoh’s play, which can be purchased at the following bookshops:

Jos:

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  • Achison Bookshop, Rwang Pam Street
  • Modern Bookshop, Rwang Pam Street
  • Waltricks Bookstore, Adjacent UBA, Rwang Pam Street
  • Coal Bookstore, DSTV Plaza, Shop No. 8, Adjacent Mchez Eatery, Yingi Rayfield

Abuja:

  • Adam’s Pages, Machima Plaza, No. 2 Mambolo Close, Off Sultan Abubakar Way, Wuze Zone 2
  • The Booksellers, Ground Floor, City Plaza, Ahmadu Bello Way, Garki II
  • Salamander Cafe, 5 Buumbura Street, Wuse 2

Lagos:

  • Glendora Booktore in the Ikeja City Mall;
  • Parresia Bookstore, Ibiola Nelson House, Allen Avenue, Ikeja
  • Terra Kulture, 1376 Tiamiyu Savage Street, Victoria Island), Abuja, and Jos

As I’ve also mentioned elsewhere on this blog, Ukoh’s unpublished play Token Dead White Guy was shortlisted for the 2018 BBC International Playwriting Competition. You can read more about it in our conversation on Brittle Paper. Hopefully, this performance of 54 Silhouettes will only be the first of many of his plays to hit theatres in Nigeria and beyond. In the meantime, check out some of the recent films Ukoh has written scripts for: Green White Green (on Netflix), The Three Thieves, and The Lost Okoroshi. I’ve only been able to watch Green White Green so far, but the trailers promise more of what I’ve come to expect from him: smart, funny, and real:

 

 

Abba Makama’s new film The Lost Okoroshi (screenplay by Africa Ukoh) to premiere at the 2019 Toronto Film Festival

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Creative duo director Abba Makama and screenwriter Africa Ukoh strike again. For the second time a film collaboration between the two will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. (Update 5 September 2019: The film has also been selected to screen at the BFI London Film Festival in October 3 and 5. You can see information about where to see it on the BFI site here. Mike Omonua’s debut film The Man Who Cut Tattoos, which Makama produced, will premiere at BFI this year.)

The Lost Okoroshi, Makama’s second feature film, (though he also has a stable of hilarious short films and a really great documentary on Nollywood, which I teach) imagines a bored security guard whose life takes a turn when his dreams of masquerades invade the world of the living. Courtney Small writing for Cinema Axis calls it a “vibrant and wildly surreal ride.”

IndieWire describes Makama as

 one of the leading voices for Nigerian cinema today. He previously directed “Green White Green,” another TIFF selection that is now streaming on Netflix, as well as “Nollywood,” the Al Jazeera documentary about Nigeria’s film industry. He should be a presence at major festivals for years to come.

More recently, Native Magazine has interviewed him about some of the thinking behind his work.

Watch the trailer here

Green White Green, Makama’s first feature, which he also co-wrote with Africa Ukoh, has been one of my favourites since I first saw it on an Air France flight back in 2017 and have since watched it over and over again on Netflix.  Film critic Noah Tsika calls it “a hopeful, downright energizing love letter to Nigeria’s enterprising youth — to a new generation plainly capable of greatness.” As I’ve written in another blog post,

The film is a youthful takedown of the prejudices that tear Nigeria apart. It mocks Nollywood, with the good-natured ribbing of a son who follows in his father’s footsteps but laughs at his outdated affectations. It is a satire, but it is also  filled with a restless joy and a tenderness that draws me in to watch it over and over again on homesick nights.

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The Lost Okoroshi promises to be stylistically similar (the energetic jump-cuts, actors posed and staring into the camera as if for a family portrait) while pushing the conceit imagined by the young filmmakers in Green White Green a little further. In Green White Green, the young secondary school graduates shoot a metaphoric film about Nigeria, taking great delight in masquerades,  as both protective spirits and (in a fire breathing incarnation) as the “Beast of Corruption,” riffing on Fela’s “beasts of no nation.” In The Lost Okoroshi, the masquerade/s unfold into full-fledged characters, which seems to represent (as much as one can interpret a trailer) a reclamation of the ancestral masquerade not as an “evil beast” as often represented in Nollywood movies but as a way of bringing tradition into the future. And, as with Green White Green, there continues to be a sly Nollywood self-referentiality: “Forget all this Pete Edochie proverbs,” the subtitled Igbo reads, “This is not a Nollywood home video.”  Thus while building on an older tradition (incorporating, for example, the Nollywood comedian Chiwetalu Agu), Makama and Ukoh push their narratives out to the cutting edge of Nigerian cinema. This is not a Nollywood home video, no. But, it draws affectionately on Nollywood to create something exciting and new.

In its imagination of the masquerade in a 21st century city context, the film reminds me of contemporary Nigerian writers Nnedi Okorafor and Chikodili Emelumadu and the inadequacy of the sort of literary labels placed on these texts. Is this Afrofuturism? Nnedi Okorafor resists that label, preferring africanfuturism. Is this magical realism? Or what Ben Okri’s critics have called “spiritual realism“? Abba Makama recently quoted Newton Aduaka (the Nigerian filmmaker who won the FESPACO film festival’s highest prize, the Golden Stallion of Yennenga for his 2007 film Ezra):

Labels are useful but ultimately they reduce the subject. Yet, I like the idea of the hyper-real, a realism that captures not only the surface but the spirit behind it–this idea captures Nigerian life well, and the way filmmakers capture that life.

This is an exciting moment not only for Abba Makama, but also for his collaborator Africa Ukoh, whom I have featured on this blog before and interviewed for Brittle Paper. Today (I published this post a little bit too late!) Ukoh’s play 54 Silhouettes, which I reviewed back in 2013 and was published in 2018, was featured as a part of the Global Black Voices event at the Roundhouse in London. Ukoh also revised 54 Silhouettes into a remarkable one-man play, which Charles Etubiebi has been performing from Rio de Janeiro to Lagos to (forthcoming) New York. Etubiebi’s next scheduled performance of the play is at the November United Solo theatre festival in New York. You can see an interview with Etubiebi below:

 

If you’re in Toronto or Lagos or London or New York, go see the film, go see the play. And for those in Nigeria who are not in Lagos, I hope that they will both also come to a theatre near you.

P.S. One more note on Nigerian cinema. I just realized yesterday that Steve Gukas’s moving film 93 Days, also at the 2016 TIFF, which tells the story of the courageous doctors and public health officials who contained the ebola virus in Lagos, is out on Amazon Prime. Although ebola is a topic often sensationalized in Western media, Gukas handles the story sensitively, telling it from the perspective of Dr. Ada Igonoh, who survived the disease. It is a great example of Nigerians telling their own stories without making “poverty porn.” And in a direct link to the rest of the content of this post, actor Charles Etubiebi plays a significant role in the film as Bankole Cardoso.

Photographic Memory 1: props for Blood and Henna

It has been nearly a year since I posted on this blog, in the fevered anguish so many of us felt after the election and inauguration of America’s current glorious leader. After that, I lost the heart to write and I filled my time with teaching and and social media, that succubus.

But I miss writing. I miss my column in Daily Trust. And because I have no urgent deadline, I write very little these days, at least writing for myself. I do try to eke out what academic writing I need to get the job done. But, because I am not exercising my writing muscles, what I write is creaky and awkward.

Tonight, I was looking through my photos for one such academic project. I have thousands of photos, hidden in thousands of files on my laptop. And I have often thought that I should give myself a blog assignment of posting a photo a day and to write about the memory that rushes to mind. A photo a day is probably much too ambitious, so I will merely say that I will try to post more often, and I will try to look at my photos more often, and I will let myself remember and write more often. It is 2am here, but I have determined to do this, so let’s go.

 

 

So for today’s photo I went back to 5 November 2011. Only a few months earlier I had moved from Kano to Jos to try to work full time on my PhD dissertation. But in late October I went back to Kano for the Goethe Institut premiere of Duniya Juyi Juyi, a film produced by the researcher Hannah Hoechner but written, directed, and acted in by almajirai. I see, via my photos, that this was also the first time I saw my friend Sa’adatu Baba Ahmed’s newborn daughter, who is now a big girl of seven.

While in Kano, Kenneth Gyang, one of Nigeria’s most exciting and experimental directors, got in touch with me (I believe via Nafisa) and asked if I could act a bit part as an ugly-American Pfizer researcher in his historical film Blood and Henna, which touches on the tragic 1996 Pfizer meningitis trials in Kano. I said yes. So, on my way back to Kano I detoured through Kaduna where the film was being shot. We shot the hospital scenes in a school made to look like a hospital. Here a props guy is hanging a chart of a skeleton. (More photos in my flickr album, from the first and second day of shooting)

Feeling keenly my lack of training in acting and the exaggerated American accent I had put on after years of being back in Nigeria, I actually dreaded seeing this for years. It received 6 nominations at the 2013 Africa Movie Academy Awards–the first Hausa film to be honoured as such by AMAA. I finally saw it at a screening at KABAFEST, the Kaduna Book and Arts Festival put together by Lola Shoneyin this summer, and the film blew me away. Fortunately, my part is very small, and Sadiq Sani Sadiq and Nafisa Abdullahi carry the film with their powerful understated acted.  It is a quiet, moving film about the ordinary people behind the sensational headlines that make up history. It’s not as experimental as Gyang’s film Confusion Na Wa, but it’s just as striking.

I should write more, but it is much too late, and I have more academic writing and class preparations to do to tomorrow. But let this serve as a start. I will post more.

Nowhere to Run Wins Best Documentary Short at The African Film Festival (TAFF) Dallas and screens 6 more times this week in Abuja, DC, and Linden, NJ

Nowhere to Run, the documentary shot, directed, and edited by my brother Dan McCain at Core Productions, Lagos, narrated by Ken Saro Wiwa Jr., and featuring Nigeria’s leading environmentalist Nnimo Bassey of Mother Earth Foundation,  (with a script written by Louis Rheeder and myself) just won the award for best short documentary at The African Film Festival (TAFF), Dallas. It had been nominated for three awards, Best Short Documentary, Best Director, and Best Cinematography. So I got up this morning and searched twitter for it. Amara Nwankpa, representing the ‘Yar Adua Centre (which produced the film) at the festival, tweeted the news.

It has been gratifying to see the film get so much attention. Back in April, it won the Grand Jury prize at the Green Me film festival in Lagos, and it has had a pretty steady stream of screenings in Nigeria and an increasing number abroad since it premiered in November 2015. There are five more screenings this week in Abuja; Washington, DC; and Linden, NJ. See this link or the bottom of this post for more details.

 

In the past month I have also been a part of two other screenings in Nigeria, one at Kwara State University, Malete, as part of the 2016 convocation events and the other at the American Corner in Jos.

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Nnimmo Bassey on screen, at the Kwara State University, Malete, screening of Nowhere to Run, 3 June 2016.

At the Kwara State University, Malete, screening on 3 June, there were about fifty students and faculty represented, including playwright Femi Osofisan, poet Tanure Ojaide, feminist critic Mary Kolawole, and ecocritic Saeedat Aliyu.

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Nowhere to Run screening at Kwara State University, Malete, on 3 June 2016.

Professor Osofisan spoke after the screening, pointing to the long history of environmental abuse and activism against it in Nigeria. Osofisan’s contemporary Ken Saro Wiwa was one of Nigeria’s most outspoken activists and critics of the degradation of the Niger Delta and was executed on trumped up charges under the military regime of Sani Abacha. Now his son continues the struggle.

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Playwright Femi Osofisan speaks after the Kwara State University screening of Nowhere to Run.

Tanure Ojaide, the author of multiple volumes of poetry which speak to the environment, also spoke to the importance of environmental issues in Nigeria.

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Poet Tanure Ojaide spoke after the Kwara State University screening of Nowhere to Run.

Saeedat Aliyu pointed to the litter on the university campus as a major problem that the university should strive to correct.

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Saeedat Aliyu speaks about rampant littering on university campuses after the Kwara State University screening of Nowhere to Run.

Sadly, the university buildings are also contributing to some of the issues spoken about in the documentary. In the film Michael Egbebike points out that erosion is caused by blocking off water ways and as I walked to my office after the screening, I saw how the new walls built all over the KWASU campus were built without proper drainage and were creating small ponds next to buildings.

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Drainage issues caused by poorly planned walls at KWASU, 3 June 2016.

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Drainage issues caused by poorly planned walls at KWASU, 3 June 2016.

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Drainage issues at KWASU, 3 June 2016.

While this is a relatively small problem that affects only one institution, it illustrates how poor planning and bad construction practices all over the country are contributing to much larger environmental issues.

In Jos, on 28 June, there were over 35 people crammed into the screening room at The American Corner.

Many of them were young people involved with community organizations, and some of them were people who had simply heard about the film and wanted to come. The audience discussed the complexities of bringing about change to how humans affect the environment. One of the most striking comments came from a man who owns a wood selling business. He spoke movingly about how he was terrified about what was happening to Nigeria and he did not want to contribute to deforestation, and yet his family business and income depends upon wood. The family bought a piece of land in a swamp to try to farm trees for use in their business, but he said the people in the neighbouring village would come at night and cut down their trees.

Voice of America journalist Ilyasu Kasim spoke about a recent story he had done about coal production. Coal production destroys a large number of trees and is dirty energy, and yet some of the poorest people in Nigeria are dependent on this industry and it provides necessary heating for people in Jos, who would otherwise freeze during harmattan. What do these people do in an increasingly devastated economy when people are already having trouble eating? Perhaps fast-growing bamboo could be used in some instances where wood is used. Furthermore, steady electricity would likely help with the problem of heating in Jos and in creating job opportunities. This led to questions of government responsibility  versus the responsibility of individuals. Obviously, the government needs to do more in enforcing laws already on the books and in improving power supply, but if individuals do not get involved then there is no hope at all.

Upcoming screenings in Nigeria this week include two screenings at the One Environment conference in Abuja, which is holding at Thought Pyramid Arts Centre, 18 Libreville Street, Wuse II, Abuja. It will be shown (tomorrow), Tuesday, 5 July, at 3:30-5pm, and on Thursday, 7th July, at 2:30-4:30pm.

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This week it will also be screened in the United States in Washington, DC, first on 6 July, Wednesday, at the International Republican Institute, 1225 Eye Street NW, Suite 800, Washington DC, at 2-4pm. To register for the event, click here.

Then a few hours later, on 6 July,  John Hopkins University-SAIS (in partnership with American University) will screen the film at 1619 Masssachusetts Avenue, NW, Rome-806, Washington, DC 20036. 5-7pm. If you want to attend, please RSVP to African Studies, saisafrica (at) jhu.edu or 202-663-5676.

It will also be screened at the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, DC, at 3519 International Ct. NW, Washington, DC 20008, on Thursday, 7 July at 6pm. To RSVP please respond at this link.

For those in New Jersey, it will screen at  Rodo African Cuisine, 1600 East Saint Georges Avenue, Linden, New Jersey, Friday, 8 July, 8-10pm. For more information, call 347-200-2509.

Next week, on 11 July, the film will be showing at 12 noon, at the University of Ibadan, Draper Hall, as part of the IFRA-Nigeria Post Cop21 Conference “Ecological Crises in Nigeria.”

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The film will be playing at other film festivals around the world and continuing to screen in both Nigeria and abroad in the next year.

To stay updated on upcoming screenings, check back regularly on my screening schedule post. And to watch the trailer, check it out here:

 

UPDATE: 10 August 2019

I was just doing some browsing and came across this Wikipedia article about the winners of the 2016 Africa International Film Festival. Nowhere to Run won “Best Documentary Film” there. I am so delighted by this image of my brother’s name right next to one of my favourite films Green White Green, etc

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Nowhere to Run to be screened as part of the convocation events at Kwara State University, Malete

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The Centre for Nollywood and New Media in Africa (CiNNeMA) at Kwara State University, Malete, invites the university community and any interested guests to a special screening of the award-winning documentary film Nowhere to Run: Nigeria’s Climate and Environmental Crisis to be held Thursday, 12 noon prompt, in the University Auditorium, immediately before the 2pm convocation play: Professor Femi Osofisan’s Aringidin and the Night Watchmen.

 

The film, shot on Epic, produced by the ‘Yar Adua Centre and Core Productions, Lagos, and directed by Dan McCain, is narrated and presented by Ken Saro Wiwa Jr. and features Nnimo Bassey, in addition to many other Nigerian environmental activists. It introduces some of the most pressing environmental concerns facing Nigeria today: from the link between desertification and Boko Haram, to the threat rising oceans pose to Lagos, to the connection between the devastation in the Niger Delta and global climate change.

 

The film is not yet available on video or public release, so please come and invite a friend, and prepare for a double feature of film and play.

 

Thus reads my press release to the Kwara State University community. To read the other blog posts I’ve written about this film, its making, and its screening schedule, see the links below:
To see a trailer of the film, see below:

‘Nowhere to Run’ wins Grand Jury Prize at the Green Me Film Festival, Lagos (and draws further attention to the plight of the Ekuri Forest)

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Left to right: Louis Rheeder (script), Nnimo Bassey (environmentalist featured in film), Dan McCain (director, cinematographer, editor), the organizers of the event.

So delighted to report that the film Nowhere to Run: Nigeria’s Climate and Environmental Crisis has won the Grand Jury prize at the “Green Me” environmental film festival in Lagos this past weekend.

Watch the trailer here:

 

I have written previously about my work with my brother, Dan McCain, on the film.

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Dan McCain with the Grand Jury Award at the Green Me film Festival in Lagos, 3 April 2016.

The Yar Adu’a Foundation sponsored the film, which was produced by Lagos-based Core Productions, directed, shot, and partially edited by my brother, and hosted by Ken Saro Wiwa Jr. Dan travelled all over Nigeria exploring environmental issues and asking if there were any links to climate change. The research and some of the early interviews were done by  Chinelo Onwualu, I did a little more research, transcribed hours of interviews, conducted a few more, and cut together the first version of the script. Louis Rheeder finished and rewrote part of the script, sat with the editor, and turned it into  a beautifully organized story, where everything flows together and makes sense. Ken Saro Wiwa Jr., who “hosts” and narrates the documentary ties everything together. Together with Dan’s spectacular cinematography (shot on Epic), it all comes together, boom!

As I have mentioned previously, as we were working on it, “we made a point of making this a ‘Nigerian’ documentary, and the interviews in the documentary are all with people based in Nigeria.” Some of the strongest voices in the film are those of well known environmentalists Ken Saro Wiwa Jr., and Nnimo Bassey, as well as those activists and environmentalists like Ekaette UkobongMichael Uwemedimo, Godknows Boladei IgaliLiza Gadsby and Peter Jenkins and others who work at the grassroots community level to make a difference. Nnimo Bassey has been an amazing advocate for the film, speaking at multiple screenings, including #COP21 in Paris. Ken Saro Wiwa has screened it at University of California, Berkeley, and other locations. Jacqueline Farris, Nnena Ogbonnaya-Orji, Marve Michael, and others at the Yar Adu’a Foundations have been working tirelessly to organize screenings in Nigeria and beyond.

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Nimmo speaks #cop21 #Paris #nowheretorun

A post shared by Core Productions Ltd. (@core_productions_ltd) on

 

I was in Lagos for the first screening at the Green Me Film Festival Saturday with Dan, Louis, and Sabrina Coleman of Core Productions. We’ve watched it dozens of times on large screens, but it was the first time any of us had seen it in a cinema. We were all blown away. It’s amazing in the cinema, the BOOM! of the cinematography and colour grading, the detail of the sound design. The audience was chattering at the beginning but suddenly everything went quiet. Later they began talking again, but they were exclamations and responses to the film. I’m looking forward to seeing at other film festivals. The organizers encouraged Dan to come back for the awards ceremony the next night. (Sadly, I hadn’t known about this on time and already had plans to travel for a conference that night. I keep missing things!) To everyone’s delight, the film won the Grand Jury Prize.

For more information about the film and the screening schedule, please see my post about the premiere (to which I have attached a calendar of screenings) or the Yar Adu’a Foundation Facebook page.

I hope this win and the attention the film is receiving will also draw more attention to the current crisis surrounding the Ekuri Forest. We had featured the Ekuri community forest in Cross River State in the film as one of the encouraging stories about what a community can do to take initiative for conserving their own environment. In the 1980s, they had refused offers from logging communities and decided to form the Ekuri Initiative to preserve their forest. The forest is one of the few remaining rain forests (crucial as a carbon sink) in Nigeria, or West Africa as a whole.  According to The Daily Post, on 22nd January 2016, a

Public Notice of Revocation signed by the Commissioner for Lands and Urban Development and published in a local newspaper on 22nd January 2016 decree[ed], among other things, that:
“all rights of occupancy existing or deemed to exist on all that piece of land or parcel of land lying and situate along the Super Highway from Esighi, Bakassi Local Government Government Area to Bekwarra Local Government Area of Cross River State covering a distance of 260km approximately and having an offset of 200m on either side of the centre line of the road and further 10km after the span of the Super Highway, excluding Government Reserves and public institutions are hereby revoked for overriding public purpose absolutely”.

The outrageous 10 kilometres on either side of the highway, would decimate the community forest, and, as the Rainforest Rescue petition points out, in seizing this community’s ancestral lands, would render them homeless.

Although, it seems that no Environmental Impact Assessment has been done (required by law for major projects of this sort in Nigeria), in February 2016, bulldozers came to the community. While the Ekuri community protested, they have already begun to knock down trees in neighbouring communities.  The Ekuri Initiative has started a website, and there is a detailed and disturbing background on the threat against the forest accompanying this Rainforest Rescue petition.

Nnimo Bassey’s Mother Earth Foundation released this press release, pointing out that,

Observers think the project may be a cover for land grabbing, illegal logging and poaching and the destruction of habitats in the forests and reserves that are protected by law and preserved by custom. They question why a project of this nature would reportedly enjoy contributions from Nigerian banks without requisite preliminary surveys, plans and approvals.

The affected communities inform that “besides the fact that the proposed route was going to cause untold damage to the globally important park, it also demonstrated that the route had been selected without looking at a contour map, let alone having an engineering survey.”  

Nnimo Bassey protests  ““We find it unacceptable that a project of this magnitude is pursued without regard to the law and in defiance of the rights of communities.”

In the upcoming weeks/months I hope to publish some of the full interviews we had done for the documentary with members of the Ekuri Community. Consider signing the petition, or if you have influence with the government, exercise it to prevent this outrageous land grab. And if you have a chance to see Nowhere to Run, you will be able to see the beauty of this forest and the passion of the community members like Martin Egot and Chief Edwin Ogor for their land, before this threat.

For more on the film, see the Facebook page and the screening schedule.

For more about Core Productions, see their website, their Twitter page, and their Instagram page.

Kannywood Awards 2016

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Nazifi Asnanic and Ali Jita on the red carpet at the Kannywood Awards 2016, 12 March 2016.

I had the privilege to attend the 2016 Kannywood Awards held at the NAF International Conference Centre in Abuja  Saturday, 12 March 2016, the third incarnation of the awards organized by Sarari Klassique Merchandise and Halims Entertainment Galleria. (See my post on the 2013 awards.) I was impressed by the space, which was in a well-decorated and sophisticated auditorium. The red carpet TV presence included Rayuwa TV, Noma TV, Unity Entertainment, NTA, VOA, Voice of Nigeria and others.

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on the red carpet.

I dislike taking pictures in conference settings under muddy lighting, and the flash on my camera is broken. Therefore, almost all of my photos are pretty bad. I’ve seen some amazing ones on Facebook taken by photographers like Sani Maikatanga. You can see more photographs at Kannywood Scene. I’ll post a few here, mostly for people who asked for copies.

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Director of the Kano State Censorship Board, Afakallah at the Kannywood Awards, 12 March 2016. (Quite a change from Rabo…)

The awards were MC-ed by Waziri Zuaibu of NTA, and Aisha Mohammad of the EFCC (!). Memorable moments include a tribute to the late Aisha Dan Kano; a stylishly-dressed Nafisa Abdullahi’s touching speech thanking her mother after she won Best Actress for her role in Baiwar Allah, and Sadik Sani Sadik kissing the ground when he received his award for best actor in Bayan Duhu, a 20+ minute speech (I was recording) by the minister of Information, and a short and sweet speech by Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu, Vice Chancellor of the Open University, following a really fantastic little 3-4 minute documentary on the beginnings of Kannywood.

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Tribute to the late Aisha Dan Kano.

I was impressed by the efforts to make this a unified Nigerian affair. Indeed the theme was “Patriotism through Entertainment.” In the musical soundtrack, I heard (pre-recorded) music by Ziriums, Sani Danja, and Jeremiah Gyang (a Christian Hausa singer.) There was an opening prayer by a Muslim and Christian, and, in addition to the various ministers and representatives of governors, there were representatives from Nollywood and even of an Ijaw youths association. Emeka Ike, the president of the Actors Guild of Nigeria gave out awards and spoke out saying that the stakeholders meeting recently held in Lagos (which invited no one from Kannywood) had been “hijacked” by outside interests. In one of the musical performances, Sarkin Waka sang “Mu Zauna lafiya, we are one,” and was joined on stage by many of the stars.

There were also performances by  Ziriums, Abbas Sadiq, and Nura Bond.

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Ziriums performs at the 2016 Kannywood Awards, 12 March 2016 (c) Carmen McCain

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Ziriums performs at the Kannywood Awards, 12 March 2016. (c) Carmen McCain

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Abbas Sadiq performs at the 2016 Kannywood Awards. (c) Carmen McCain

Three special awards were given at the beginning of the ceremony: The special Kannywood Merit Award, went to His royal Highness Malam Awwal Ibrahim, the Emir of Suleja; a Posthumous Life Achievement Award went to the late Tijjani Ibraheem; and another Kannywood Special Merit Award went to Malam Sunusi Shehu Daneji, a scriptwriter and magazine publisher who coined the term “Kannywood” in 1998.

Although certain moments like the (actually quite informative) speech by the Minister of Information dragged on, the audience kept themselves amused with photo taking,selfies, and wandering around chatting.

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photo-taking (c) Carmen McCain

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Abbas Sadiq working the aisles. (c) Carmen McCain

 

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Filmmaker, author and publisher Ado Ahmad Gidan Dabino (c) Carmen McCain

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Producer and scriptwriter Nasir Gwangwazo at the end of the night (c) Carmen McCain

The winners of the awards (alongside the other nominees) are as follows:

Best Film

Hindu, produced by Garba Saleh – WON

Gwaska, produced by Falalu Dorayi

Baiwar Allah, produced by Naziru Dan Hajiya

 

Best Cultural Film

Na Hauwa, produced by Kabir Ali Mpeg – WON

Hindu, produced by Garba Saleh

Malam Zalimu, produced by Abba El Mustapha

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Na Hauwa, produced by Kabir Ali Mpeg wins Best Cultural Film. (c) Carmen McCain

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Kabir Ali Mpeg holds the award for the Best Cultural Film that he produced. (c) Carmen McCain

Best Director

Ali Gumzak, for Baiwar Allah – WON

Adam Zango, for Gwaska

Ali Nuhu for Da’iman

 

Best Script

Yakubu M. Kumo, for Bayan Duhu – WON

Yakubu M. Kumo, for Baiwar Allah

Shafiu Dauda Giwa, for Ban Gantaba

 

Best Actress

Nafisa Abdullahi, for Baiwar Allah -WON

Jamila Nagudu, for Na Hauwa

Rahama Sadau, for Halacci

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The Minister of Information presents the Best Actress Award to a teary Nafisa Abdullahi, 12 March 2016.

Best Actor

Sadik Sani Sadik, for Bayan Duhu -WON

Adam A. Zango, for Gwaska

Ali Nuhu, for Nasibi

 

Best Supporting Actress

Fati Shu’uma, for Basma -WON

Ladidi Fagge, for Da’iman

Fati Washa, for Hindu

 

Best Supporting Actor

Lawan Ahmad, for Da’iman – WON

Sadik Ahmad, for Nasibi

Ali Nuhu, for Rumfar Shehu

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Lawan Ahmad (middle) with his award for best supporting actor in the film Da’iman (c) Carmen McCain

 

Best Comedian

Sule Yahaya Bosho, for Rumfar Shehu – WON

Sule Yahaya Bosho, for Gidan Farko

Rabilu Musa (RIP), for Dangas

 

Best Villain

Haruna Talle Mai Fata, for Farmaki -WON

Adam A. Zango, for Hindu

Tanimu Akawu, for Kasata

 

Best Child Actor

Maryam Baba Hasin, for Basma  – WON

Ahmad Ali Nuhu, for Uba da Da

Shema’u Salisu, for Anisa

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At only five years of age Maryam Baba Hasin wins best Child Actor Award for her role in Basma.

 

Cinematography

Mr. D’mej, for Hindu – WON

Mr. D’mej and Ismail M. Ismail, for Gwaska

Murtala Balala, for Baiwar Allah

 

Best Editor

Ali Artwork, for Gwaska – WON

(no name), for Mulamat

Husseini Ibrahim, for Baiwar Allah

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Ali Artwork poses with his award for best editor and me.

 

Best Visual Effects

Muhammad Ali, for Hindu – WON

Musa Zee Moses and Muhammad Ali, for Anisa

Ali Musa Dan Jallo, for Bori

Best Sound

Suraj A. Ibrahim and Mustapha Auwal, for Gwaska -WON

Fahad Abubakar, for Fansa

Bello Minna and Mukhtar Dauda, for Hindu

Best Music

Umar M. Sharif, for Uba da Da – WON

Umar M. Sharif and Isa Gombe, for Gwaska

Nura M. Inuwa, for Hindu

 

Best Set Design

Tahir I. Tahir, for Hindu – WON

Muhammad Sani G., for Bakin Mulki

Saif A. Nuhu and Ishaq Ahmad Nuhu, for Halacci

 

Best Costume

Jibrin Cha, Sunusi Shamaki, and One Eye, for Hindu -WON

Umar Big Show, et al, for Gwaska

Sunusi Shamaki, for Bakin Mulki

Best Makeup

(guess which makeup artist won….? 😉 )

Alhaji Suji, for Hindu

Alhaji Suji, for Bakin Alkalami

Alhaji Suji, for Nasibi